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Russian Master Spy at the Crown Hotel, Blandford

Gordon Arnold Lonsdale was an apparently successful London based, Canadian businessman who had made his money by hiring out and selling jukeboxes, bubble gum and gambling machines. Another of his products, an electronic car locking device was awarded a gold award at an International Inventors’ Exhibition in Brussels. He was a stocky built man of medium height with a broad cheerful face and ‘very intelligent eyes.’ On the 28th June 1960, he had booked himself into the Crown Hotel in Blandford Forum. Yet, all was not what it seemed as Gordon Lonsdale was not his real name neither was he Canadian. His real name was Konon Trofimovich Molody and he was a 38 year old, Moscow born, Russian intelligence agent and master spy. He spoke excellent English with an American accent as he had lived for several years in the USA. Molody had stolen the identity of a dead man who had died in 1943.

Purpose of his Blandford stay was later to meet two associates at a house in Meadow View Road, Weymouth  and at the Elm Tree Inn at Langton Herring, near Portland. These associates were civil servants Harry Houghton and his girlfriend, ‘Bunty’ Gee, They worked in the Portland Naval Base where an underwater research establishment was also located. The couple passed on military secrets to Konon Molody for money. Sometimes payments were made in unusual circumstances. It possibly explains why a substantial amount of money was once found in a toilet cistern near Weymouth pier. Houghton, in particular, enjoyed a lifestyle way beyond his modest salary. He had four cars and was a heavy drinker.

Houghton and Gee would also meet up with Molody in London. They would drive up the A354 and then catch a train up to London. On 7th January 1961, Konon Molody, Harry Houghton and ‘Bunty’ Gee were arrested near Waterloo Station. All were found guilty at the Old Bailey of spying and imprisoned. While in prison, Molody met some of the great train robbers. In April 1964, Konon Molody was exchanged for Greville Wynne, a British businessman who had been convicted in Moscow for espionage. Made a hero in his home country, Molody was featured as a character in a Russian spy film, Dead Season with the cover name of Lonsfield. The film also featured the Porton Down Biological & Chemical Establishment near Salisbury. He also liaised with Bournemouth born spy, Melita Norwood known as the ‘Bexleyheath spying great-granny’. She did not like him and thought he was a playboy.

Konon Molody died in October 1970 during a mushroom expedition and picnic with his family and two friends. Aged just 48 years, he had suffered a severe stroke after drinking his second vodka. As it was a convenient but short distance from the former Portland Naval Base, it seems quite likely that Russian master spy Konon Molody would have booked himself into the Crown Hotel, Blandford Forum on other occasions

In June 2017, Vladimir Putin said: ‘The history of the illegal Secret Service was created by legends…among them…Konon Molody.’

(Credit: Dead Doubles: The Extraordinary Worldwide Hunt For One Of The Cold War’s Most Notorious Spy Rings by Trevor Baines.)

Images: Konon Trifimovich Molody portrayed in Russia as a hero.


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